The DFG presents measures for scientific integrity and replicability of research data

(10.12.18) Between 8 and 10 November, some 120 researchers from the field of bio-imaging and structural biology came together for a Humboldt Kolleg organised by Prof. Dr. Mônica Santos de Freitas from Rio de Janeiro State University. Participants came from all over Brazil, as well as Germany, Argentina, Chile, France and the UK.

Equipe realiza credenciamento de participantes

© M. Cortes / Humboldt Kolleg / UFRJ

According to Freitas, science in Brazil is making a significant contribution to the area of bio-imaging. For example, Rio de Janeiro is home to the largest centre for nuclear magnetic resonance in Latin America and there is an electron accelerator in the state of São Paulo. Synchrotron radiation is used here to conduct experiments to advance understanding of the structural characteristics of proteins, carbohydrates and nucleic acids. These macromolecules are linked to a wide range of diseases. “The participants from Brazil are all qualified researchers in their own fields,” according to the organiser.

In her view, research into this area is fundamental for improving the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. “The symptom of an illness simply gives us a broad impression of what is actually happening in an individual. One example of this is the tremors witnessed in Parkinson’s patients. If we take a closer look at the affected person, using magnetic resonance imaging to examine cell ensembles, we can establish which regions of the brain are activated by these symptoms. If we compare these results with those of healthy individuals, we can then clearly identify the actual regions of the brain that are affected,” explained Freitas.

In addition to the specialist content, Dr. Kathrin Winkler, Head of the DFG Office Latin America, was invited to give a presentation on ethics, scientific principles and replicability of research data. She explained, from the perspective of the funding organisation, the institutional instruments used to ensure compliance with good scientific practice. Following a case of gross scientific misconduct in 1997, the DFG published a set of recommendations for both researchers and institutions. The publication was revised in 2013, and a comprehensive self-monitoring system was introduced in all scientific institutions. The DFG also drew up additional guidelines for the use of funding as well as for dealing with cases of scientific misconduct. The ombudsman system was also expanded as part of this approach.

In addition to these themes, Winkler also presented the DFG's latest works on the topic of replicability of research results. Last year, the DFG published a general statement on this issue and drew up subject-specific approaches.

The presentation was followed by an intensive discussion among the audience that encompassed topics such as challenges in relation to international standards for good scientific practice against a background of increasing internationalisation.

In addition to members of the Humboldt Network, around two-thirds of the audience consisted of early career researchers and experienced researchers, who also had the opportunity of finding out more about possibilities for research and funding in Germany at a Research in Germany information event. As well as the DFG, the German House for Research and Innovation (DWIH), São Paulo, the University of Münster, the Free University of Berlin and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) made presentations. The highly qualified participants followed the presentation of the DFG’s funding programmes and cooperation opportunities with great interest - from instruments for creating international collaborations to funding opportunities for the continuation or intensification of existing projects.